Top Supercomputer in 2009 Already Obsolete

Roadrunner will be studied, then dismantled

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 1, 2013 8:08 AM CDT

(Newser) – Just four years ago, a supercomputer known as Roadrunner was the world's fastest; yesterday, it went offline after being declared obsolete. The IBM machine was built to monitor US nuclear weapons, and in 2008 became the first "petaflop" computer: able to perform more than a quadrillion calculations per second. It was installed at the US Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and topped the supercomputer list three times; though it was still the world's 22nd fastest computer as of November, it is no longer energy-efficient enough to be worthwhile, Ars Technica reports.

The $121 million computer, which required 55 miles of fiber optic cable and covered 6,000 square feet with its 278 refrigerator-sized server racks, will be studied for a month and then dismantled, CNET reports. While it was in use, the computer also assisted with mapping the HIV genetic tree and performed calculations tied to dark matter. Experts at Los Alamos note that future supercomputers will need to become more energy efficient in order to "make the power bill affordable." (For comparison, the current fastest supercomputer has a speed of 17.59 petaflops, and supercomputers are expected to break the exascale barrier—one quintillion calculations per second—within 10 to 20 years, a Los Alamos rep tells the AP.)

This undated handout photo provided by IBM shows lead engineer Don Grice of IBM inspecting Roadrunner in the company's Poughkeepsie, NY plant.
This undated handout photo provided by IBM shows lead engineer Don Grice of IBM inspecting "Roadrunner" in the company's Poughkeepsie, NY plant.   (AP Photo/IBM via FPS, HO)
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